By: Tayana Cuffee, Pharm D Candidate and Krista Donohoe,Pharm.D., BCPS, BCGP
Some pharmacy students have responsibilities caring for others, what can pharmacy schools learn from their experiences? Pharmacy school is a very rigorous program that requires a lot of time and effort both in and outside of the classroom. Pharmacy students regularly experience stressors such as high work demands, numerous assessments, Advanced Practice Pharmacy Experiences (APPEs), and finding the right career path.1 High levels of stress in pharmacy students has been associated with depression, anxiety, and increased illness.2 As if being a pharmacy student isn’t stressful enough, when you are a student mother, this creates an additional level of stress and responsibility, in addition to the aforementioned stressors.. Although the optimal time for parenthood, logistically and psychologically, may be after completion of school, there are student mothers who need support. The literature is extremely sparse on pharmacy school mothers and how to best help them succeed. According to AACP, 64.6% of students enrolled in school in fall of 2020 were females, and 95% were of childbearing age.4 Due to the fact that pharmacy students are predominantly females of childbearing age, there is a call for action to have resources in place at every pharmacy institution for student mothers.
The Student Perspective and Challenges with Being a Mom During Pharmacy School
As a current student mother of two in my third year of pharmacy school, I sometimes feel as though I am at a disadvantage compared to my cohort counterparts. There are certain leadership roles that I would like to take on and summer projects I would like to participate in; however, due to being a mother of two young children, I cannot commit myself to certain tasks that fall outside of school. Furthermore, certain conferences and meetings where networking is vital occur outside of school hours, thus my ability to attend these are limited when my time is ultimately accounted for by attending to my daughters and helping my oldest with her schoolwork. In fact, a study conducted on UK medical students identified perceived barriers for parent/pregnant medical students included lack of time, the stressful and demanding nature of the course, and social factors.1 In the past, not being able to participate in certain activities would have me questioning if I should have waited to have children. However, the older I get the more I realize that having children during pharmacy school was not a mistake. My daughters have taught me how to effectively manage my time while mothering and being a full time student. They have allowed me to take on a lifelong leadership role where I constantly have to be mindful of the things I do or say because I have two little people looking up to me. They have given me the strength and motivation to keep pushing forward not in spite of them, but because of them. Additionally, waiting to have my daughters after pharmacy school would have put me at a disadvantage when it comes to developing soft skills needed to care for my future patients, such as having patience, empathy, being kind, approachable, and having active listening skills. Overall, having children during school makes things a little more challenging, however, it teaches you life lessons that can be applied to pharmacy school.
Call to Action: Student Mother Support Groups & Further Research Needed
To prevent current and future student mothers from feeling the way I have felt, we suggest creating a student mother support group at every pharmacy school. The student mother support group should focus on:
- SOCIAL AND WELL-BEING: Having “mom outings” where student mothers get together and exist outside of being a student mother
- ACADEMIC SUCCESS: Providing
- RESOURCES: Providing local daycare information, counseling services information, nursing room locations on campus, etc.
Further research is needed in order to determine the best way to help moms succeed in the fullest sense during pharmacy school without being left out of extra-curriculars, co-curriculars, and more. How do you support your pharmacy student moms?
We want to thank Dr. Lauren Caldas and Dr. Lauren Pamulapati for their efforts in providing feedback and assisting with the research on this topic.
- Khadjooi K, Scott P, Jones L. What is the impact of pregnancy and parenthood on studying medicine? Exploring attitudes and experiences of medical students. J R Coll Physicians Edinb. 2012;42(2):106-110. doi:10.4997/JRCPE.2012.203
- Garber MC, Huston SA, Breese CR. Sources of stress in a pharmacy student population. Curr Pharm Teach Learn. 2019;11(4):329-337. doi:10.1016/j.cptl.2019.01.014
- Lewin MR. Pregnancy, parenthood, and family leave during residency. Ann Emerg Med. 2003;41(4):568-573. doi:10.1067/mem.2003.127
- Academic Pharmacy’s Vital Statistics. AACP. https://www.aacp.org/article/academic-pharmacys-vital-statistics. Accessed October 11, 2022.
Tayana Cuffee is a third-year pharmacy student at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her educational scholarship interests include special populations such as women’s health, mental health and pediatrics. In her free time, she enjoys exercising, traveling and spending time with her family.
Krista Donohoe is an Associate Professor in the Pharmacotherapy and Outcome Sciences Department at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy. Her educational scholarship interests include active-learning laboratories, curriculum evaluation, and geriatrics. In her free time, she enjoys being with her family, traveling, and writing her young adult fiction novel series.
Pulses is a scholarly blog supported by Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning